Of Mice and Mousse
The Hotel Ménage isn't your typical hotel. It's a boutique hotel, so stylish it oozes Las Vegas and South Beach. Funny, then, that it's in Anaheim, a city dominated by corporate chains, cheap motels and, of course, Disney. But that's exactly the draw: It's close enough to the Magic Kingdom that you can smell the fireworks, but far enough that it's free from the reach of Mickey's white gloves.
In its previous life, the Hotel Ménage was a vanilla Holiday Inn. But now, oversized lava lamps greet you at valet parking, and the lobby doubles as a sultry lounge replete with cushy couches and sheer drapes. Its eatery, a restaurant called K'ya, echoes the rest of the place—dark, full of leather and lit to a romantic mood. The design scheme—Asian mixed with safari motifs—reminds me of the Elephant Bar, minus the tacky leopard prints.
There's another K'ya restaurant in Laguna Beach, also inside a hotel. But unlike that locale (which is in a town already full of eclectic fine dining), this K'ya is a refreshing addition to an area starved for something other than the usual Disneyland tourist traps.
Another difference: The Anaheim branch also offers a cheaper "bistro" menu where nothing is priced above $12.
One of the dishes on this menu is a faithful rendition of the Hawaiian comfort food loco moco, in which brown gravy tops a fried egg, which tops a hamburger patty, which tops a hill of sticky rice. Part Salisbury steak, part breakfast, the dish is a sloppy mound of starch and protein that eschews presentation for flavor and bulk. The kind of meal that stays in your gut for days—precisely how it's supposed to be.
The bistro menu also boasts plates of panko-breaded fish and chips, barbecue pork sliders, and gumbo. The grilled 5-ounce flatiron steak, in particular, is a bargain, plated with baby carrots, green beans, asparagus and mashed spuds, all sitting on a perky port-wine reduction that by itself justifies a higher price.
The rest of the food is inspired by Asian and Hawaiian elements. The ahi poke is a take on the classic Hawaiian raw-fish salad, served like tuna tartare with crispy wonton chips and avocado. But despite the welcome addition of chunked papaya, it's too salty. A lighter hand in applying the soy sauce would've made it perfect.
Better is the sampler platter, on which four kinds of protein gang up on a mound of Asian slaw. My favorite are the lamb chops (tender, silken two-bite medallions still attached to bone), followed by the Korean barbecue short ribs, which are so flavorful I almost asked for rice. Shrimp sluiced in lemongrass butter and sugary-glazed fried chicken wings are also worthy of praise, but you're better off saving the stomach space for the entrées.
The duck confit, for instance, will need every bit of your appetite. It's a hearty feast of meat and potatoes, draped in a dark reduction tangier than barbecue sauce and thicker than maple syrup. Rustic and rich, the dish also includes some wine-laced wilted spinach.
More refined in execution but equal in heft are the seared sea scallops, cooked just enough to get some color. The meaty cylinders surround a mountain of mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and raw chives. Meanwhile, a light yet creamy white-truffle-butter sauce ropes it all in.
Also on the menu: hibachi-grilled salmon, which gets a drizzle of Thai-curry-flavored coconut cream and plenty of rice to sop it all up. A crowning tuft of cilantro, sprouts and micro greens adds color, flavor and a bit of drama to the plating.
Dessert runs the gamut between crème brûlée, cheesecake and a pineapple upside-down cake. We skipped them in favor of the Molten Chocolate, a just-out-of-the-oven confection the size of a hockey puck. It was good with the scoop of ice cream served as a side—but think what a pair of chocolate Mickey ears could add!
I'm only kidding about that last part.
K'YA, 1221 S. HARBOR BLVD., ANAHEIM, (714) 758-0900; WWW.KYARESTAURANT.COM. OPEN DAILY FOR BREAFAST AND LUNCH, 6:30 A.M.- 2:30 P.M.; DINNER, 5-10 P.M. DINNER FOR TWO, $75, EXCLUDING DRINKS. FULL BAR.
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